Abbie Kearse used to live in a 15th-floor waterfront apartment atop the Holland Tunnel on River Drive South in Jersey City. It was her home for more than seven years, and she hadn't planned on moving.
Then came the morning of Sept. 11, a morning Kearse said she was running late for her New York City job and stopped for a latte at a coffee shop near her home. She emerged from the coffee shop and just across the water from where she stood, the terrorist attacks were underway.
"I watched everything from the waterfront," she said. "The first thing that went off in my head was that it was a bomb."
Kearse, who for 13 years worked as a journalist for NBC and MTV news and won a Peabody Award in 1992, moved to New Orleans after 9/11 to try and find a fresh start. But she moved back to New York when she got homesick after a few months, and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder eight months after 9/11. She eventually settled in Strong's Neck, an area she appreciates for her peaceful surroundings, where she has lived for the past five years.
Kearse said she's only been to New York City a handful of times since 9/11, and she can't bring herself to get on a subway train. Helicopters passing overhead – like the ones surveying the area in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene – make her nervous.
"I've become so structured to exist in literally like a five mile area," said Kearse, 45, who was raised in Commack. "I'm happy, but it's not the life I used to have. My life has drastically changed."
But now, ten years after 9/11, she says it's time for another change.
"Somehow," she said, "this year, I have been waking up."